A Beauty Uncovered(8)

By: Andrea Laurence

 Disgusted, Sam flopped her lunch back onto its wrapper. She needed to start focusing on work and maybe she’d forget about the whiff of his cologne and the full curve of his lips. Or not.

 Maybe she should’ve just let him stay in his office.

 * * *

 Brody shouldn’t have gone out there. He knew it, and yet he did it anyway.

 Now he sat at his desk, silently brooding. He hadn’t been able to touch his container of baked spaghetti for the past hour. It was his favorite, but he’d lost his appetite the minute he came face-to-face with Samantha Davis.

 The surveillance cameras hadn’t done her justice. She was absolutely breathtaking in person. She had a glow of confidence—a radiance—that didn’t translate through the lens. Neither did her scent. Her sweater had left the smell of her floral perfume on his hands. When he got closer to her, he also picked up a hint of what he assumed was her cherry lip gloss. It had made her full pink lips shiny and alluring.

 Brody was suddenly very warm. He kept his office cool to offset the heat produced by all his computer equipment, but it wasn’t enough. He leaned forward and shrugged out of his suit coat, tossing it aside. It barely helped.

 He wanted to kiss her and taste those lips more than he had wanted to kiss another woman in his life. His body had quickly reacted to being so close to her. His pulse raced, his groin tightened and his grasp of the English language vanished. It was an instantaneous reaction. One that forced him back into his office before he made a fool of himself.

 Samantha would never kiss him. At least not because she thought he was attractive and wanted to kiss him. On the one occasion in the past where a woman had appeared interested, it was his bank account, not his body that drew her in. Once she got what she came for, she was gone.

 Truthfully, Brody had enough money for women to overlook the scars. He’d known women to put up with worse for access to the black American Express card. Every billionaire in Forbes magazine had some busty blonde twenty years younger than him clinging affectionately to his arm in photographs. It didn’t matter how old or ugly or unpleasant the men were because they were rich. But that’s not what Brody wanted.

 He wanted more than arm candy or a trophy wife. He wanted more out of a relationship than what he could buy. He might get sex in a dark room. He might get companionship in exchange for expensive gifts. But Brody would never have love and he knew it. It only took one time getting burned to learn that lesson.

 But Samantha gave him hope. She hadn’t reacted the way he expected her to. There was the initial draw of air into her lungs, but there the reaction stopped. Or changed, he should say. Instead of her gaze running over his scars, it had found its focus in his eyes. There had been a softness there, a comfortable warmth in her dark brown eyes. And then…she had smiled.

 No disgust. No pity. No irritation. If he didn’t know better, he might think it was actually attraction. He’d seen the same look in a girl’s eyes as she admired one of his brothers in high school. Or the way his foster mother, Molly, looked at Ken. But it had never been directed at him.

 The problem now was figuring out what to do next. He was tempted to drop the rude act and actually try talking to her. Maybe from there he could consider asking her out. His gut warned him to stay away while his body urged him closer.

 Turning back to the monitor, Brody lamented his inexperience with the fairer sex. The past few years with Agnes hadn’t helped much. What if he was wrong about Samantha’s reaction? He’d feel like a fool when she rejected him. And she would. The work relationship would be even more strained then. So he would keep his mouth shut on the subject.

 But at least the worst was over. Samantha had seen him. The veil had been lifted and the awkward moment was behind them.

 The chime of his email program turned his attention back to his computer. He had a teleconference with his executive staff in fifteen minutes. Not even his most trusted and senior employees ever spoke to Brody in person or saw his face. Typically his employees spent the entire time talking to a red curtain backdrop while he sat to the side. He could’ve just called a conference call, but he liked to see their faces during meetings. He could get so much more from their expressions than just their voices.

 Before the meeting started, he needed the agenda and financial reports he’s asked Samantha to pull together earlier.

 Brody reached out to press the speaker button and hesitated. There was absolutely no reason to go out to Samantha’s desk aside from the fact that he wanted to see her again. He almost wished she had recoiled in horror so he could return to focusing on his work instead of the sway of her hips as she walked.

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